|“||It's no easy task, being an ordinary parent to an extraordinary child. I have failed in that task. And, because of my prejudices, I've failed you. I'm haunted by how things may have played out differently, if I'd been more willing to hear your side of things. For me, its the end. For you, a chance to grow old and someday do better with your own child than I did with mine. It's for that child, I give you my ring. I don't ask for your forgiveness, or for you to forget. I ask only that you believe this: whether you are now reading this as a human or as a vampire, I love you all the same, as I have always loved you, and always will.||”|
Elena grew up with the belief that John was her uncle, and eventually discovered his identity as her biological father. She was shown to be one of the few people he genuinely cared for, and though he was raised to hate vampires, his last act was to ensure that Elena knew that he would love her, regardless of whether she were human or a vampire. When he returned to town in the second season, he was intent on protecting her from Klaus. However, he made the mistake of trusting Isobel, when in reality, she had been conpelled into working for Klaus to gain possession of Elena and sacrifice her to break his hybrid curse. Eventually, Elena told John that she would learn not to hate him. After Damon fed Elena his blood to ensure that she would come back to life after being sacrificed, John was intent on making sure his daughter would never become a vampire, and he urges Bonnie to perform a spell which transferred his life force to Elena. When she returned to life as a human, he died, leaving her just a final letter and his Gilbert ring to protect any future children she may have.
John dated Isobel as a teenager in Mystic Falls. After discovering she was pregnant, he took her to his brother, Grayson, who was a doctor. Grayson helped Isobel deliver a baby girl, Elena. A few days later, Isobel ran away from home, and John ultimately decided to leave Elena with Grayson and his wife, Miranda; they were both trying to have a baby of their own, but their efforts had not been working up to that point. At age seventeen, Elena was in a car accident with her parents on Wickery Bridge. She managed to survive, thanks to Stefan rescuing her, but both of her adoptive parents died.
Throughout The Vampire Diaries Series
Elena and Jeremy are shocked when John returned to town shortly after the death of his brother and sister-in-law. Elena confessed to Matt that she never liked John. Damon began to suspect that John may be Elena's biological father. He revealed his suspicions to his brother Stefan, who ultimately chose to tell Elena before she found out a different way. Elena wondered if she should confront John about it and demand to know the truth. When John refused to let Elena help Stefan save Damon from the fire, she coldly told him that he should care about how she feels, as her father. He confirmed that her suspicions were true, and allowed her to go save him. Later, John confessed his true feelings for Isobel, Elena's biological mother, to Katherine, who he believed to be Elena. Katherine attacked him by cutting off his fingers with a butcher knife and stabbing him in the gut. Elena returned home to find him injured just after the attack, and just barely missed an altercation with Katherine herself.
Elena and Stefan visited John in hospital, where he refused to talk to his as long as she continued to have a vampire boyfriend, and suggested that she should have staked him before then. Elena insulted him, and informed him that his hatred of vampires would get him killed. After she left his room, Stefan then threatened to turn him into a vampire if he didn't leave town within 24 hours, for Elena's own wellbeing. She later confessed that she wanted John out of her life for good.
When Stefan tried to contact Isobel to look for a way to end their problems with Elijah and Klaus, John returned to town instead. Jenna and John argued about his presence in their home, and John ended up revealing that he was Elena's biological father, which was not common knowledge at the time. John used this to his advantage so that Jenna would let him stay with them, despite how much she disliked him. John goes against Elena's wishes and tried to get her to trust Isobel, in hopes of saving her from Klaus. However, Isobel inadvertantly betrayed them by killing John (who was wearing the Gilbert ring) and kidnapping Elena, under Klaus' compulsion. When John woke up, Damon confronted him, but Elena ultimately stopped Damon from hurting John, as she wanted to talk to him herself. John promised that he believed Isobel wanted to help Elena, and sweared that he was shocked by her betrayal. Elena eventually decided to learn not to hate him, as he was her last remaining parent.
After several days of not hearing from Elena, John visited Damon, looking for her. Damon revealed that Klaus had taken her that night for the sacrifice, and added that she would at least return as a vampire, because she had vampire blood in her system. Horrified, John met with Bonnie, Jeremy and Alaric. He informed Bonnie about a spell he found in Johnathan Gilbert's journal, in which he described a spell of Emily Bennett, which transferred one person's life force to someone else, saving their life. He requested that the same spell be done for him and Elena. After Bonnie, Damon and Elijah left, Jeremy realized that in order to transfer a life force to another person, the person donating the life force must die. He asked John if he knew this, and John admitted that he did. He then gave Jeremy his ring and a letter he wrote to give to Elena. When Damon returned with a dead Elena after the sacrifice, John watched as Jeremy and Alaric waited for Damon's verdict. Once he learned that she was both alive and human, John smiled to himself before he walked outside the house and collapsed in the yard, dead.
Before John and Jenna's funeral, Jeremy gave Elena the letter John wrote, and the ring. She read the letter and learned of his sacrifice. She also discovered just how much he truly loved her, despite their differences, as he admitted that he would love her just as much, even if she had become a vampire. Elena later laid a rose on his grave at his funeral.
Following Jeremy's death, Elena tearfully listed all the people she had loved and lost who have lived in her house. She mentioned John in that list, and seemed surprised at how much she missed him, too.
- John: "That means nothing to me."
- Elena: "As my father, it should."
- John: "You know...?"
- Elena: "I wasn't sure... Now, I am."
- Elena: "You ruin everything, John. Everything you touch, it just... turns to dust. But you're the only parent I have left. So maybe I could learn... not... to hate you..."
- John: "Okay."
- Elena: "You may be my father, but I'm never going to be your daughter."
- Elena believed that John was her uncle for most of her life.
- She discovered in Founder's Day that he was her father.
- Elena realized in Stand By Me that she did love John, despite everything.
- John sacrificed himself for her so she could live as a human.
- He wrote her a letter, revealing that despite his hatred for vampires, he would have loved his daughter even if she was one.
- John was the second of Elena's birth parents to die.
- John wanted to get Elena away from Stefan and Damon because of their vampirism.
- John was present during Elena's birth.
- Elena is John's only child.
- Elena said that she would never be John's daughter in Daddy Issues, but lists him in Stand By Me as one of the people she loved who had died.